I spent the last couple days streaming my design process creating a new setting called Cradle. It was initially intended to be used with Dungeon World, but I settled on using Worlds of Adventure 0.2 because it is a much more refined game design.
The setting was produced for a face to face group I’ll be GMing for tomorrow. The group is mostly familiar with 5e, so I moved from running OSR games to running Worlds of Adventure for them, as it is much closer to the supers style power fantasy stories 5e does.
I had the following player experience goals going into the design process:
- Consequences to PCs actions across the game world
- Thinking about how they fit into the world (Defamiliarization)
- World traversal
- World building
- Thinking about the physical space of the world
- Factional interaction
- Character driven melodrama
- Opportunities for heroic battles
I pulled in the Icons concept from 13th Age, and tried to tie factions into the various locations so that there would be no “frontier” beyond which the PCs would be able to act without consequence. I also added a couple short moves to help faciliate sky travel and factional interactions.
The setting design swung towards a fantasy sci-fi direction and then back towards a more fantasy focused concept (while still being set on a generation ship) over the course of the two days.
I think the most successful part of the design was the player races, but these have no mechanical interaction with Worlds of Adventure at all. Even though these operate entirely at the “fiction layer” I think they were my most creative work. I can’t pat myself on the back that much for working in the space of fantasy racism, but I do think the setting at least accomplishes the goal of making players think about how they fit into it by removing humans as a “default” and instead making them a mysterious precursor race from the distant past.
I really struggled to avoid the colonialist theme of adventuring in “terra nullis” that is so common to D&D-likes, especially because the reason I created the setting in the first place was to avoid running a “divide and conquer the barbarians” colonialism campaign in The Ultraviolet Grasslands I wasn’t enthusiastic about. Unfortunately I don’t think I was that successful. The inertia in the genre towards those themes is so strong that without doing a full cloth game redesign it is hard to avoid.
I am hoping that giving icons Bonds will help to drive melodrama, as that is a part of “heroic fantasy” I do actually enjoy, but it feels like my mechanical support for it is quite weak compared to something like Hearts of Wulin. I also don’t think writing melodrama is my strong suit, even if I enjoy it quite a bit.
I think the megadungeon section of the game will work, but it is probably the weakest work I did. There is the start of a good concept there, but I’m not sure Dungeon World is the right system to realize it. I would have liked there to be better integration of the factions into this space, but again I think that might require deeper mechanical support.
Whether or not heroic battles happen is probably going to depend on the extent to which the character melodrama kicks off. I considered writing fronts into the setting, but I decided to instead write them after character creation to help create player buy-in.
This was my first experience doing a TRPG game jam, and my favourite part was collaborating with other people on a fast moving project. My layout work was extremely amateurish and it felt a bit strange working in such an old game system. I would be interested in doing another in the future with more room for mechanical innovation!